'Excessive' rent demand prompts closure of popular and Camra award winning railway pub

PUBLISHED: 14:50 27 October 2016

In better days: Ian Pinches outside The Railway Arms in Downham Market, after it won the national CAMRA pub of the year award. Picture: Ian Burt

In better days: Ian Pinches outside The Railway Arms in Downham Market, after it won the national CAMRA pub of the year award. Picture: Ian Burt

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An award-winning pub that featured on television in the series Great Railway Journeys of Britain and was the last stopping-off point for thousands of thirsty rail customers has closed down, amid a row over rent.

A notice was posted this week on the window of the Railway Arms, on platform one at Downham Market station.

In the note, the tenants of seven years, who also run The Fenland Express café on the platform, blamed the closure on a “proposed rent increase, which we regard as excessive, and which, in our view, would adversely affect the viability of the business”.

It comes just a year after staff at the pub were celebrating being named by Camracampaign for real ale as the region’s best cider pub of the year for the third consecutive time. Three years ago, it was named the best cider pub in the whole country by Camra.

Andrea Briers, East Anglian regional director for Camra, said it was a sad day.

“I always enjoyed my visits to the pub,” she added.

The Railway Arms featured on Great Railway Journeys of Britain presented by Michael Portillo in 2011. It was also spotlighted in the book Unusual Railway Pubs.

A spokesman for Great Northern, which runs rail services from Downham Market to Cambridge and London, said it was surprised to learn the tenants had handed back the keys to their unit.

“It was our understanding that negotiations were under way via our managing agent, and a very modest rent increase was offered,” the spokesman added.

“After several years without an increase, we wanted to work with the tenant to ensure he stayed, as he is a valuable asset to the community.

“We would be very willing to talk to the tenant to understand why this offer was unacceptable.”

Landlord Ian Pinches was unavailable for comment yesterday.

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